The Tenchi series has the sort of reputation which causes people to feel sorry for you when they hear you’re watching it. It was a sizeable hit in Japan during the 90s, it had a good run on Cartoon Network in recent years, and the series has its fans out there somewhere, but everywhere I turned, I seemed to get a reception like:
“Oh, you have to watch the new Tenchi for a review? Good luck with that.•bCrLf
I only ever saw very small tidbits of the various previous Tenchi incarnations myself, so I never got a hands-on idea of why some were so sarcastic about it. However, the general impression I got from others was that the series put an emphasis on fan service over substance•it’s been called a “harem anime•bCrLf by some websites, and I never saw anyone praise it for either having intense action or a deep story. So, I had an idea of what I was getting into when I peeled the plastic wrap off of this new Tenchi spin off.
Well, if you’re going to watch Tenchi Muyo GXP, you had better like nosebleed gags. •Because the makers of GXP developed what they determined was a precise algebraic calculation for success. It goes something like:
x + y = z
where x = “boobs•bCrLf, y = “nosebleeds•bCrLf, and z = “OMFGLOLZ!!!1!1!1111•bCrLf
Whereas a great critic once stated that the proper way to measure the quality of a videogame was to measure its “start to crate•bCrLf time, one can measure the quality of a Tenchi GXP episode through its “start to nosebleed•bCrLf time. On average, this measurement can run anywhere from 2 minutes to about 20 seconds. It might be even faster if you count the possibility of nosebleeds during the opening credits intro, which I can’t confirm since I skipped past it the majority of the time, and when I didn’t, I was too busy shaking my booty and jumping up and down shouting “GO! GO! GO!•bCrLf to actually notice what was happening on-screen.
Of course, the great question of the matter is whether a faster or a slower Start To Nosebleed (STN) measurement makes for a greater or lesser GXP episode. A faster STN means that 95% of the episode will consist of the various well-endowed female cast members finding a myriad of outlandish ways to expose themselves and throw themselves on Seina Yamada, the series’ generic 14-year-old lead man. A slower STN time generally means that much of the episode will instead be consumed with unremarkable attempts at a dense space opera plot, generally including lots of bad “embarrassing villain” gags and doting over ambiguous cat/rabbit hybrids which drive spaceships around screaming “mmeeEEEeeooooOOOOOo
Fortunately, most episodes fall in the faster side of Nosebleed Time Chart, but the inconsistency of the Tenchi GXP series is puzzling.
I’m not going to get into too much detail with the premise and set-up of the series, because that would spoil what little amount of plot is actually present for the viewer. If you’ve seen part of a Tenchi series before, then you know what to expect. Unlike other Tenchi series, Tenchi Muyo GXP focuses on an all-new cast of characters and events, but it’s still the same sort of deal as before. An ordinary boy from earth goes into space, where tons of hot anime babes fall all over him for no apparent reason… yadda, yadda, yadda.
However, for a show of this caliber, Tenchi GXP never quite falls into as regular and rigid of a formula as you would expect. Part of the series’ plot involves the same sort of “normal kid stumbles into crazy fantasy phenomenon•bCrLf set-up that every other series does, and part of it falls into the common “recreated Japanese high school setting with a twist•bCrLf formula, but it breaks off into a “living in a harem•bCrLf segment, followed by an “adventurers in space•bCrLf segment, then a “keeping the anime super pet•bCrLf. There’s even an entire segment devoted to following one of the villains around as he prepares his ship for an upcoming battle.
For someone who tires of the rigid clichÃ© approaches that so many anime series rely on, you’d think that a show which shakes things up would be a welcome change. However, Tenchi GXP is not really breaking the mold with any wild and new approach, it’s just changing the formula up a bit every now and then, and it’s not even doing a great job of it. In actuality, it just seems like the writers were never really sure what kind of show they were making, or what they wanted to focus on, so they continued to drift around aimlessly until they had filled 26 episodes.
Just when one episode is starting to keep you mildly entertained laughing at genuinely (if modestly) funny slapstick humor, the next episode will bore you with the sappy drama of a kitten/rabbit/puppy thing running away from home•which is not nearly as cute as it’s meant to be. The series never really finds any remarkable villains to pit against the protagonists, instead continually resurrecting and reusing throw-away villains after killing them off. By the time the series is nearing its close, they’ve run out of villains, so they suddenly take the comic-relief characters and make them bad. Then they devote the entire closing saga of the series to taking down these “villains•bCrLf that you can’t even take seriously. In the last couple episodes, the creators realize it didn’t really work, so they bring back one of their old villains, who has a huge vendetta against the series’ hero for no real reason, for a weak last hurrah. Then during the last episode, they take the little bit of satisfaction and closure you might get out of seeing the protagonists conclude their quest, by turning the tables with a bad sex gag.
Tenchi Muyo GXP is not terrible. A good deal of the humor is actually funny, even if the skin is gratuitous and the set-up repetitive. They change things up just enough to keep you mildly surprised after the 500th nosebleed gag. While the series seems to be fairly low budget, and thus the drawing and animation is of mediocre quality, it occasionally excels just where it needs to. For example, at one point, when Seina Yamada has a nosebleed in the bath and faints in the middle of a hot tub, the blood disperses into the water in a startlingly realistic manner, which is at once disgusting and hilarious. The show’s light drama is also occasionally somewhat engaging and gives just enough of a little tug on the heart strings to make the show entertaining… at least if you’re watching it for free.
…and that’s where the hammer really comes down on GXP. It is somewhat entertaining, but not enough to warrant shelling out $80 on a box set. If you get the new FUNimation Channel on cable, or if you can borrow it from a friend who happens to have it, then it might be a worthwhile watch if you’ve got nothing else to do. However, unless you’re a hardcore Tenchi fan, I can’t honestly recommend Tenchi Muyo GXP as a worthy purchase.